The Naked City (1948): “There are 8 million stories… “

The Naked City 1948

Jules Dassin’s third major feature, The Naked City, is legendary for its cine-verite portrayal of the city of New York: on the streets and in deep focus, with a stunning climax on the Williamsburg bridge.  Deservedly, in 1949 William H. Daniels received an Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Cinematography and Paul Weatherwax  an Oscar for Best Film Editing.  Miklós Rózsa and Frank Skinner contribute a solid musical score.   A voice-over narration by producer, Mark Hellinger, who died before the movie’s release, follows the story of a murder investigation by NY homicide cops.

The Naked City 1948

The Naked City 1948

The story is well-paced with the who-dun-it and why tension elegantly elaborated. While the cast is solid and the dialog has a sardonic edge, the picture is essentially a police procedural of little irony or depth, and with a ‘magazine expose’ feel . Once we are into the story, Hellinger’s voice-over becomes tedious, and by the climax downright annoying, as he starts addressing a hood on the run. Thematically, there is little to distinguish The Naked City as a film noir. We have to wait for Thieves Highway the following year to begin to appreciate Dassin’s greatness as a noir director.

The Naked City 1948

thenakedcity76-_sm

It is the city of New York and its people that hold our attention, and the several bit-portrayals of people going about their lives are truly engaging. The final scene where a street-sweeper in profile scoops up yesterday’s papers from the gutter and moves on into the New York night gives an arresting hard-bitten closure to the story behind the murder and to the film itself.

The Naked City 1948

The Naked City 1948

13 thoughts on “The Naked City (1948): “There are 8 million stories… “”

  1. Hi! Tony,
    What a very concise, (Ahh! the word that I was in search of to decribe your review of Gattaca.)detailed,
    and well written review as usual of a film that I enjoy watching, but I wouldn’t actually list it among one of my favorite films that is considered a noir (Well, let me just say, it has elements of noir.) anymore.
    Btw,I think the photographs that you have chosen truly “compliment” your review of this film.
    P.S..(FWIW…I did purchase a (L)obby
    card of this film (Naked City) from another Noiraholic.)
    Thanks,
    Dcd 😉

    “Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.”-author Ross Macdonald

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  2. The film had stunning black and white photography. The final scene of the street sweeper is searing by its insensitivity, that is of the city, as if it were niot affected by any human event, a damning indictment.

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  3. Tony said,”Tks Dcd. I would have liked to include a lot more frames – the cinematography is that stunning.” I agree with you, but personally,I think that you have included enough photograph to “pique” readers, who(m) have never watched this film interests.
    and for those of us who(m)have watched the 1948 film “Naked City” “8 millions” times…enough pictures for us to watch this film again, just to find out what happens after frame (picture) #5 and #6 again!
    Tks,
    Dcd

    “Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.”-author Ross Macdonald

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  4. And guess who will be crossing the Williamsburg Bridge about one hour from now enroute to a Ethan Hawke-starring stage play of Chekov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD at the Brooklyn Harvey Theatre? LOL!!! And I’ll be thinking of this film now that I’ve read this most fine review!

    Well, here’s one of the most high-profile films of its kind, and one that of course was the inspiration of the famous television series. I agree with what you say that it took the following year with THIEVES HIGHWAY to really establish Dassin as a noir master, and yes, one thinks of the documentary genre with this film even before noir. So many components made this one stand-out, including (as you note)the great Rozsa’s score, Paul Weatherwx’s editing, and most of all, the absolutely stunning Oscar winning black and white cinematography by William H. Daniels. I quite agree that there’s little irony or depth in this well-described “police procederal” which still is a model of its kind.
    Regardless of what category we place this film, it’s still one of Dassin’s most justly celebrated films.
    A wonderfully written and observed addition to the FilmsNoir.net archives.

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  5. Thanks Sam. Yes, the Citerion DVD is brilliant – the restoration is flawless. I hope you enjoyed the Cherry Orchard. I would love to have seen Ethan Hawke live – ;ooking forward to your review at Wonders in the Dark.

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  6. Sam said,”And needless to say Tony, DCD et all, the two-disc Criterion set of this film is a big winner.”
    Sam Juliano, I agree with you, 100% the two-disc Criterion set of this film is a big winner.”
    And Even though I really enjoy watching Dassin’s “Naked City” it doesn’t rank in my “top 10 list” of fav(e) (orite) films anymore.

    Sam Juliano said,”Does DCD need copies?” Oh! no, I already own the (unopened) two-disc Criterion set.(Sam Juliano, I “picked it up” in 2007 or 2008…(TRANSLATION:
    I purchased the two-disc Criterion set 2 years ago methinks.) 😕 (Testing)

    Let me echo Tony’s sentiment(s,)I too hope that you enjoy Ethan “Gattaca” Hawke performance in Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. Wow!..(A thought!) You’re going to see “in person” “the person” that Tony wrote, about (Tony, reviewed the film “Gattaca” on Sam Juliano’s blog ) on your blog. Now, that is eerie!…Just kidding! 😉

    Take care!
    dcd 🙂

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  7. Hi! Tony,
    Tony said,”Thanks Sam. Yes, the Criterion DVD is brilliant – the restoration is flawless.”

    Wow!..That is a “ringing” endorsement from my “self-proclaimed” mentor…Dassin’s two-disc Criterion set, will be (opened) over the week-end.

    Take care!
    Dcd 😉

    “Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.”-author Ross Macdonald

    Like

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